Following in the footsteps of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) group in the U.S., its European base is upping the pressure on Gilead’s AIDS/HIV and hepatitis C drug policies on the continent.
AHF Europe is calling on Gilead Sciences “to stop its greedy tactics and put lives before profits,” and is running a protest this month at Gilead’s offices in Amsterdam.
Gilead’s main HIV/AIDS treatments are Biktarvy, Truvada and Descovy, which combined make major blockbuster sales each year. The U.S. pharma also sells several hep C drugs, including Harvoni and Eplusa.
These drugs made tens of billions of dollars in a short period of time, predominately in the U.S. and Europe, when first sold nearly a decade ago.
But AHF Europe is demanding that Gilead now open the license for the generic production of Harvoni to all low- and middle-income countries “without exception.” The group is also demanding that Gilead “stop evergreening patents” on existing HIV/AIDS drugs like Truvada, arguing that “this is exploitation, not innovation.”
“Gilead is one of the worst offenders of big pharma profiteering, and at the same time, it has priced several of its HIV and hepatitis C drugs out of reach for many people,” the group said in a press release.
This comes several months after AHF in the U.S. hit out at “Greediaid” Gilead for similar pricing issues and held several protests at its California base in October last year. That was for, according to AHF, refusing to offer the 340B discount price for HIV drugs to providers who use contract pharmacies.
As part of that protest, AHF ran large theatrical protests with costumes—a $1 million dollar bill, pigs’ heads and snouts, advocates dressed as burglars with money bags slung over their shoulders. It also ran a series of Gilead/Greediad ads in several Bay Area print and online publications.
This time in Amsterdam, AHF Europe will be running banners saying: “Stop being greedy - Stop Pharma Greed, Gilead Greed Kills, Gilead is Greedy.” AHF said that there are other “planned actions worldwide” to come this year, though it did not share details.
“Gilead is notorious for exploiting patent monopolies on blockbuster drugs to enrich itself and its shareholders,” said AHF Director of Global Advocacy and Policy Guillermina Alaniz, in the release.
“Our global advocacy campaign is meant to let everyone know about Gilead’s greedy tactics and make lifesaving medicines accessible for everyone, not just people in rich countries.”
A Gilead spokesperson disputed some of the accusations made by the AHF Europe, saying that through its free drug program, “Gilead has provided free medicine to more than 250,000 individuals and we are the #1 global philanthropic funder of HIV causes.”
It adds that as “a leader in HIV, we will continue to work together with the HIV community and policymakers to overcome the remaining barriers to HIV prevention, care and treatment, and to advance public health initiatives to combat HIV.”
The U.S. pharma also pointed to its COVID drug Veklury (remdesivir) voluntary licensing program, which has seen both Veklury and generic remdesivir “made available to more than 11 million patients around the world, including more than 7 million people in 127 middle- and low-income countries.”
These licenses are royalty-free, with remdesivir also now pre-qualified by the WHO to boost access in developing nations.